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Dr. Heather Fountain accepts the NAEA Art Educator of the Year Award

Dr. Heather Fountain

by Alyssa Clark '16

Dr. Heather Fountain's background has helped shape Kutztown University's Department of Art Education and Crafts in numerous ways, contributing to its place as one of the top undergraduate art education programs in the country.

Because of her exemplary contribution, service and achievement, Dr. Fountain was named the 2016 National Art Education Assocatiation's Higher Education Art Educator of the Year.

Among Fountain's contributions is the development of the Designing for Disabilities course, which helps students get comfortable teaching people with disabilities by giving firsthand experience to future art educations teaching people with disabilities.

"A couple years ago, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania required that students have three to four classes related to teaching people with disabilities," Fountain said. 

Fountain took this requirement and went to work to design a course to fit the need. Her one-of-a-kind course was born.  

One of the big projects in the Designing for Disabilities class is for each student to have a partner, someone with a disability, and to spend time with him or her in ways that allow a personal connection. Students will go somewhere social with their partners and hear their stories and design something for them specifically. This project and class, Fountain says, changes the mindset of students; students start to see people's disabilities not as an obstacle, but a possibility.

Kutztown University fits Fountain's teaching style of recognizing that students learn in many different ways.

KU is a place where professors will know your name, Fountain pointed out. It's a place where if a student is struggling, professors are there to reach out with recourses or time, whatever the individual student needs to put him or her on the path to success. KU is a place where students will be cared for, as well as taught. Each professor in the Department of Art Education and Crafts has expertise or in his or her area of study, so instead of students just getting one perspective, they get multiple perspectives. 

Dr. Heather FountainFountain explained that she teaches college students because she wanted younger students in schools to have amazing teachers. 

"One person can make a difference, often they don't even know it." 

In her personal time, Fountain and her husband go to Maine, where she grew up, to work and train staff at a summer camp for adults with disabilities. 

"We talk about accommodating and making modifications, but we've been doing that forever and ever at camp. Like, 'how do we play street hockey with someone in a wheelchair' or 'How do we get a power chair on the beach.'" She said.

A picture from Education Week Newspaper, yellowed from age and kept in a plastic slip on Fountain's desk at KU reads: "We touch [students] two eyes at a time." 

Making a personal connection is what makes her an excellent professor, and helps her prepare future teachers to make the same connections.

"You have 30 of students in the room, but really you're just trying to touch two eyes at a time. You don't want to lose track of that one child or that one person, whoever they are."

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